I still remember the time, many years ago, when PDF documents seemed novel. Today, of course, most attorneys work with PDF documents just about every day, especially if you practice in federal court. And PDF is my preferred file format for storing documents on my iPad. My GoodReader app has a huge number of folders, each of which is full of PDF documents for the pleadings, correspondence, research, exhibits, and other key documents associated with my case files. But as much as I work with PDF files, I always feel like there is so much more to know about working with this file format. I suspect that most of you feel the same way. (If you don't, then either you are a PDF genius, or you just don't know what you are missing.)
Today, I have two good recommendations for helping you to learn more about working with PDF files: a free podcast, and an inexpensive book.
Mac Power Users - Episode 230: The Power of PDFs (Dec. 14, 2014)
California attorney David Sparks and Florida attorney Katie Floyd produce the great Mac Power Users podcast. "Mac" is in the title, but they also talk quite a bit about the iPhone and iPad. In their most recent episode, they are joined by New Orleans attorney Ernie Svenson, a true expert on PDF files and going paperless. I've know Ernie for almost two decades, and I still remember going to lunch with him around 15 years ago when he told me that the future was for lawyers to scan all of their documents and have a paperless file. In theory, I liked what he was describing, but at the time it seemed about as realistic as flying a Jetsons-style hovercraft to work. Of course, nowadays, my litigation practice is almost 100% paperless, and I'm sure that the same is true for many of you. Sevenson has been doing this stuff for a very long time and he really knows of what he speaks. So do David Sparks and Katie Floyd — Sparks even wrote a whole book on going paperless — so it comes as no surprise that this episode of the MPU podcast is overflowing with great information on working with PDF files.
Mac Power Users is not supposed to be a podcast aimed at lawyers, but when you get three lawyers together to talk about PDF files, I'm not sure how you can avoid talking about the use of PDFs in a law practice. Thus, lawyers who listen to this episode will learn litigation-specific tips and tricks in addition to the general advice that could be used no matter what type of work you do.
The podcast lasts less than two hours. Listen to it in your car, while you are getting ready for work, or maybe while you are having lunch in your office. You'll learn a lot.
Click here for the page on the MPU website for this podcast, where you can listen or download the episode. Or you can just search for Mac Power Users in your podcast app of choice. My favorite is Overcast, which you can download for free, although it costs $4.99 to get cool advanced features such as the ability to speed up the podcast without making it sound like you are listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks.
PDF Essentials for Lawyers by Ernie Svenson
It's no coincidence that Ernie Svenson was on the latest episode of MPU; he has a new book out for lawyers who want to learn more about PDF. The book is called PDF Essentials for Lawyers. Svenson gave me a free copy of the book and I read it last night (mostly on my iPad, in the GoodReader app, but I also read part of it on the Mac that I use at home).
The book itself doesn't talk about using PDFs on an iPad (or iPhone), and instead it focuses on using the free Adobe Reader software for the PC and Mac. This makes sense because all attorneys use a computer, and Adobe Reader is free software that can be used by every attorney. Nevertheless, most of the knowledge that you will get from reading this book will translate to any other PDF software that you use on your computer or on your iPad or iPhone.
The book itself is available only in a digital format as — you guessed it — a PDF file. So you are literally using a PDF file as you learn about using a PDF file, which makes the book even better. You will learn about everything from highlighting to hyperlinks to bookmarks while you are actually using those functions in a real document. Svenson is an excellent teacher in real life, and that comes through in this book, which is clearly written and full of helpful tips. The graphics in the book are also very well done, making it extremely easy to follow along.
And the book also includes hyperlinks to over a dozen videos to accompany the text. For example, Svenson gave me permission to share this link for a video for the section of the book that talks about highlighting. The information in this video on highlighting is itself useful, but I mainly wanted to share this video with you just so that you can get a sense of what a good job that Svenson did in producing the videos. This is high quality stuff.
The full-price cost of the book is $9.99, but for a limited time, iPhone J.D. readers can get the book for half price, only $4.97